Setting up your first rain barrel can be a quick and easy process that any DIY’er can complete in an afternoon. It’s a simple technology with only a few components and almost no moving parts. Despite its simplicity, there is a process to cleaning and maintaining a water barrel to make sure that your captured rainwater is clean and usable. This is particularly important if you are planning to drink what you capture and no matter how many filters you set up, at least some sediment will get into your tank.
There are a number of things to check for when performing routine maintenance or just doing a quick check-in on what you have stored. Stagnant water always brings the risk of bacteria or algae and, perhaps even worse, it can attract mosquitos who will attempt to lay their eggs in your barrel. Additionally, there is damage to the barrel, spigot, or screens to look out for.
Fortunately, maintenance is fairly easy to manage and likely only needs to be done once a year or so. Here are the steps you should take to clean out your water barrel.
One note before you get started. While you’re cleaning out your barrel, it helps to replace the debris screens at the same time so if you’re just getting started, run out and get screen replacements first!
Step 1 – Drain your barrel
Unfortunately, if you are going to clean your barrel, you’re going to have to drain out all of the rainwater you’ve worked so hard to collect. Sorry but it’s necessary. It’s okay to shed some tears if it strikes you as necessary in the moment.
Step 2 – Disconnect from your catchment system
Disconnect from your system so you can move the barrel around freely. You will need full access to the barrel all around so it needs to be fully separated from your system.
Step 3 – Spray barrel down to remove sediment
Take the top off of your barrel and use a hose to spray out the inside to flush out any sediment. This won’t necessarily get everything but you’re looking to get the grit and big chunks. If there are algae stuck to the side of your barrel, we will get that in the next step so don’t worry about it.
Step 4 – Clean & Disinfect the interior
Use a cleaning solution of either vinegar or a bleach mixture and a long-handled brush and scrub out the tank. This is where you are going to want to really make sure you’re getting everything out of the barrel. Any debris should be gone after you have finished this step. Rinse the cleaning solution out once you are satisfied your barrel is clean.
Step 5 – Replace the debris screens
While you’re cleaning out your barrel, take the opportunity to replace the debris screens in both the gutter and the tank and clean out the gutters. Debris screens don’t capture everything and you’ll likely find some sediment in the gutters as well.
Step 6 – Reassemble
You’re done! Reassemble your system and start collecting rainwater all over again.